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What role can nutrition play in meeting egg industry challenges?

The UK’s appetite for eggs is larger than ever. Around 13 billion eggs are consumed every year, with latest figures showing a sales increase of five per cent in the year since the Food Standards Agency changed official health advice for Lion Standard eggs. Take these statistics at face value and the outlook for the egg industry appears positive. Delve beneath the surface and you’ll be faced with a more challenging reality.

Putting aside the UK’s turbulent politics, egg producers are facing a number of immediate challenges. These include welfare issues, changing retailer requirements and oversupply. Over the past few months, ABN has attended two important industry conferences – the BFREPA Free Range conference and the Egg and Poultry Industry Conference, at which we were a lead sponsor. As ever with events like these, the opportunity to meet with others in the sector was of incredible value. It was also interesting to hear opinions from across the industry landscape on how these challenges can be overcome and opportunities leveraged. ABN works as a true and trusted partner with our customers and we see a key role for nutrition in meeting these challenges over the coming months and years.

Here are some key takeaways from the recent events we have attended and supported:

  • Welfare: Industry pressures have driven the move towards finding a solution to end beak trimming practices across the egg industry. With concerns that an outright ban would only create more welfare problems due to feather pecking in layer flocks – the reason behind beak trimming – the industry is working together to find a solution. Nutrition and diet changes, through feed, have a central part to play in improving bird health and changing pecking behaviours through reducing stress in flocks.
  • Shell quality: The industry is seeing a deterioration in shell quality, particularly as birds age. At BFREPA, Ian Lowery from Crowshall Vets provided some interesting insight into this issue. Again, nutrition and feed intake have a direct impact on how hens form shells, especially the absorption of calcium. Good gut and intestinal health is extremely important in absorbing the right nutrients to produce strong eggs and this is directly impacted by what flocks are fed.

  • The future of the industry: ABN is passionate about securing the future of the poultry industry through the development of young talent. As such, we sponsored the popular ‘Young Guns’ slot on the EPIC conference agenda. This slot brought together four young voices of the poultry industry to share their views on the conference topic, ‘Preparing for tomorrow, today’. Representing the egg industry were Rebecca Tonks, of St Ewe Free Range Eggs, and James Corbett, of Ridgeway Foods. Both cited that having experience and knowledge of the wider supply chain as key in forging a successful career in poultry. With the number of challenges facing the egg industry it’s clear that working together will be vital as we move forward into a somewhat uncertain but nevertheless exciting future.

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